Saturday, March 29, 2014

Lucky you! Pictures from my Southern Tour

Here are the bends from the class that I taught at Warren Wilson College just outside of Asheville, NC. I had Bill Palmer rig up a new steambox that we insulated and it held a nice high heat. We got 12 bends with no issues at all, which is a real achievement in a classroom setting. We were careful to open the door only briefly when retrieving our pieces and monitored the heat level carefully.
My favorite lunchtime retreat was to watch the new piggies running around on the college farm.
The class made balloon backs which might just be my new favorite chair to teach new chairmakers. It has the intense bend and plenty of opportunities to make sweet joinery. The shouldered tenon at the end of the bow is especially fun.

Here is a finished chair. Everyone finished up their chair before 4:30 on the last day and I was definitely proud of the way that they turned out.
They were very uniform too, they could have been a set. That would have suited Seth just fine as he now has the job of guiding a bunch of the students at the college through making a set for the college President. They are shooting high with their program of fine woodworking and I am excited to see where they take it. For the Presidents house, Seth designed the undercarraige that you see below. I like the cigar legs and higher stretchers, I think I'll swipe it.
Of course he was too busy helping the class along to finish his prototype, but you get the idea.
I also met a blacksmith while I was there by the name of Jason Lonon. He helped the college students make their own travishers and inshaves and he dropped by to talk tools with me.
Here is a drawknife that he made based coincidentally on one of my favorite styles.
A while back, I was fiddling with drawknife geometry and came up with one that I really love. I bent the handles a couple of ways to get it just right and now I keep it as a model for good geometry.
When held up to Jasons drawknife, they shared the same geometry, which took us both by surprise. He said that he would sell them for $200. You can contact him through his website at if you are interested in a gorgeous handmade drawknife.

Now I am back home, hoping to get in a boil or two (syrup season ran late this year), but mainly settling into not living out of a suitcase...for a while.

Oh, and last but not least, my Mom took great care of me in Atlanta, isn't she a doll!

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Seth Wins the Day

Here are a couple of tenon cutters. The one in the back is a poplar base with a frog from a standard Bailey style plane. The one in the front is made of rosewood (fancy eh?) and has a frog from a Bedrock plane. I made the one in the back years ago,  and today, Seth Weizenecker made the one in front. The cutter Seth made is simpler to make and works amazingly well.

I like using the frog from a plane in my tenoning fixture because of the control that it gives over the adjustments, but as you can see, I had to mount it on a small angled block to get the low cutting angle that I wanted. What I didn't know, was that Bedrocks frogs are far simpler and screw easily to a flat surface, with a beautifully low angle built right in!

Here it is in use. And the shaving...amazing.
In order to get the clearance angle on the bevel, Seth ground the blade to about 24 degrees, which is rather low for standard work (in my experience) but for this dedicated task, it peels the wood great.

Notice the low angle of the frog and the bevel of the blade
Don't be confused by the shiny chip breaker, which looks like a blade, it's a Hock chipbreaker.
He began the process by drilling and reaming a hole as you'd expect, then he planed down the top until an even gap opened at the top of the mortise. Then he screwed the frog on. How simple is that!

These days, I am acutely aware of the value of having talented people around, well done Seth.
Now I am going down to his shop to steal all the Bedrock frogs, shhhh

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Simpler Sighting

I just finished teaching the continuous arm class at Highland in Atlanta and as usual, the cauldron of the classroom helped with the evolution of technique.
Chair started popping up everywhere on the last day!
 But first, here is a cool photo that Seth Weizenecker took of one of the students.

Seth was indispensable helping me teach this class and now I am recharging at his home in Asheville before our class next week. I'm told that there is still one opening if anyone wants to jump on it, it will be a load of fun. Contact Bill Palmer at if you want more info.

Watching students work through the process is always fascinating and gives me a chance to rethink or retool to make it simpler. This isn't a dumbing down, it's about expanding what is obvious to me so that I can bring folks onboard. Evaluating the results while reaming is one of the most important jobs in making chairs this way. The trouble is that I have to describe not only what I do, but what I see. During this last class, I thought about the bevel square that I use to sight whether the reamer is at the correct angle and realized that it might be made easier with a very simple tweak.

Here is the bevel square retrofit with a nice wide blade so that you can easily sight down the flat plane. And by cutting out one side of the bevel square base, it's easy to see the alignment line when looking over the top of the blade. The photo below shows looking over the top of the bevel square a bit too far.
Looking over the top at the wide flat face of the bevel square
Here is the correct alignment for assessing the position of the reamer. The arrow on the square touching the line makes seeing, and thankfully teaching, the correct alignment easier.
Lining up the face (and arrow) with the base line shows that the reamer is too far forward

 It's a little thing, but Seth and I saw a marked difference in the ease with which it helped the students "get it", and that's enough for me. I will be refitting all of my square, that I use in the shop, and to teach.

The side view of the set up

As usual, thanks to my friends at Highland for all their help, especially Ed Scent, who makes it all happen.